The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources

By Robin W. Winks | Go to book overview

CEYLON

K. W. Goonewardena

"THERE IS NO ISLAND in the world, Great Britain itself not excepted, that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and so many different countries as Ceylon," said Sir James Emerson Tennent, the British administrator and historian in 1859.1 It could also be mentioned that no other island in the world has such a long and continuous history. The recorded history of Ceylon goes back over two thousand years to about the time when the Buddhist missionary Mahinda--sent by the Emperor Asoka of India--arrived with several other bhikkhus or monks. The Pali canon (containing the teachings of the Buddha) which Mahinda brought with him came to include, before long, an introduction containing a history of Buddhist events up to the bringing of the doctrine to Ceylon. The historical tradition thus begun seems to have been continued in order to relate the progress of Buddhism in the island thereafter. To this tradition we owe the Dipavamsa (compiled in the fourth or fifth century A.D.) and the Mahavamsa2 (compiled in the fifth or sixth century A.D.). Before taking up these histories or sources for further consideration, however, it is necessary to describe the various chronological divisions into which the island's history has been divided.

The period prior to the Aryan settlements of the fifth or sixth century B.C. falls into the category of prehistory. Even thereafter we are on a firm historical footing only from about the third century B.C. The history of the island from this time on has been subdivided into various periods. The first, extending to the eleventh century, is an era generally referred to as the Anuradhapura Period--named after the capital city of Anuradhapura. It is itself often further subdivided into the Early

____________________
1
Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Physical, Historical and Topographical, I ( London), p. xxiii.
2
Dipavamsa, ed. and trans, into English by Hermann Oldenberg ( London, 1879); Mahavamsa, ed. and trans. into English by Wilhelm Geiger ( London, 1912); reprinted with addendum by Garrett C. Mendis ( Colombo, 1950).

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The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors ix
  • Introduction 3
  • The American Continental Colonies in the Empire 23
  • The Empire Since 1783 46
  • Canada 69
  • Australia 137
  • New Zealand 174
  • The British Territories in the Pacific 197
  • South Africa 212
  • British Central Africa 237
  • British East Africa 248
  • British West Africa 261
  • Egypt and the Sudan 279
  • Great Britain and Inter­national Trusteeship: the Mandate System 296
  • Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus 312
  • Ireland's Commonwealth Years, 1922-1949 326
  • The British West Indies 344
  • India 357
  • Pakistan 396
  • Ceylon 421
  • Burma 448
  • Malaysia 460
  • Commonwealth Literature: Developments and Prospects 493
  • Appendix: An American Report 523
  • Index 529
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